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Richards-Kortum and Oden receive 2013 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation

01 May 2013

Photonics for a Better World logoRice University bioengineering professors Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden have received the 2013 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation for developing health innovations for the world's poorest communities in partnership with undergraduate students.

Richards-Kortum, an SPIE member, and Oden established the Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) engineering design initiative at Rice University in 2005 with the goals of engaging students to develop and improve access to health innovations in the developing world. It is part of the Rice 360 Institute for Global Health Technologies that she established in 2007. Kortum is director of the institute.

The professors of bioengineering have guided more than 3,000 students through the multidisciplinary program's invention process, resulting in 58 health technologies that are helping 45,000 people in 24 countries. Undergrads are also provided with a hands-on education and a roadmap to become inventors and innovators of life-saving technologies.

The professors will donate the $100,000 prize money from the award to the Day One Project, another Rice 360 program, which will renovate the neonatal ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
Appropriate technologies that reduce neonatal mortality in low-resource district hospitals can be developed, refined, tested, and scaled at the hospital that has helped implement Rice's low-cost, student-designed health-care technologies since 2007.

Other BTB invention projects headed by Richards-Kortum and Oden include DoseRight dosing clips, designed to provide accurate dosing of liquid oral medication in response to the common mis-dosing of medicine in children; and the Global Focus Microscope, a microscope using battery-operated LED lighting to achieve fluorescent microscopy, which can quickly diagnose diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.

The Global Focus Microscope and the Rice 360 Institute were featured in an SPIE Professional article in July 2010.

Richards-Kortum has published more than 60 conference papers and nearly 40 journal articles with SPIE. She is co-chair of a conference on imaging, manipulation, and analysis of biomolecules, cells, and tissues that will be presented at SPIE Photonics West in February 2014.